clap clap blog: we have moved
Friday, March 19, 2004
New Magnetic Fields song over at STG. (Can we call it that?) It's very pretty.
Off for the weekend. Bye.
posted by Mike B. at 6:47 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Speaking of Tori Amos: I Totally Did Tori Amos Last Night.
I'm reading a lot of Haypenny today.
posted by Mike B. at 2:22 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Incidentally, there's a great little entry on that Klosterman column in this month's Black List.
posted by Mike B. at 12:51 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Wow! This could be cool. Good for Adam!
And good for the Daily Show guy, too. I'm, um, kind of looking forward to a Broadway musical now.
Of course, Cry-Baby kicks ass. Maybe they can get Iggy Pop to reprise his role. If not, maybe they can get a rotating cast of those crusty old punk guys who still hang around the village working.
posted by Mike B. at 11:14 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Just got back from seeing Courtney.
First off: if you think Courtney is insane--and she is--her fans are in. fucking. sane. Like, in that bad way. In that really bad way. Seeing a girl who previously told me that she wrote her art history thesis (?!) on Courtney (and asked me if Courtney would think this was "psycho"--I didn't know quite what to say) stroking her hair in a way reminiscent of the scene in Hard Day's Night where they're playing in the train and that blonde mod girl keeps sort of darting her hand out at one Beatle's hair. Real star worship stuff, but from someone who's not playing with it. This is someone who kind of gives back as much as her fans want to give, and while in a way that's pretty cool, in a way it inspires some pretty insane, charismatic devotion. I mean, there were no ethics there, no morals, no sense of decency that you might find at a regular show where we understand that we're sort of all in it together; these people just wanted to get as close as possible to her, to touch her, and didn't even notice if you were in the way. And yes, I know that happens at shows, but it was different here. (And also yes, I myself touched her. It was fine.)
She went on around 12:20, which is 2:20 later than she was supposed to, but to be fair, the first band did go on 45 minutes late themselves. (About whom, more later.) The crowd was a weird mix of old people, subculturey girls, and gay men, which I wasn't expecting, I guess. There was a pretty small hipster quotient, and the two we were standing next to were some of the saner, and nicer, people there. (Although I never did get to read the whole tattoo on the girl's neck. It looked interesting.) The place got fairly packed, and there was a lot of security. (About whom, again, more later.)
Courtney led off with "Mono" and "Hold On To Me," I'm pretty sure, but what happened was that her voice was pretty much shot by the end of "Mono." In "Hold" she was really only able to get out about two lines before deep-breathing through the next two. After "Mono" she told us about the vocal troubles, which despite my doubts seemed genuine, and noted that she'd have to modify the setlist (I'm paraphrasing, of course) and kept conferring with the rest of the band about what to play next. She just couldn't sing "Hold," and the band was kind of powering through the ballad a bit more than they should; I was disappointed, even when she started interacting with the crowd. But at the end of the song, she did one of those things that Courtney does sometimes which totally makes everything else worthwhile: the rest of the band stopped, totally silent, and the crowd was totally silent, too, and she just kept singing, and singing, and singing, croaking it out, rasping it out, crouching on the stage and clutching her microphone in a pose that can seem affected, but with her for some reason just seemed totally, totally natural. She crouched there on the stage, out of sight of most of the band, and blasted her way through her voice, through the lyrics, I don't even remember what she was singing, if it was an ad-lib or the chorus or whatever, but it was perfect, so perfect, and I admit that I shuddered and teared up a little. It was worth waiting for, worth all the rest of it: it was what music can be, and yes, it was that good.
And yeah, that was about the high point, except for maybe when she did a similar thing at the end of Malibu, although her voice was totally fucking shot by that point and the band ended up crashing in after about a 30-second a capella repetition of the chorus. But what made those two moments so memorable wasn't the cheap a capella drama, or Courtney's performance, or anything having to do with what was going on on stage. It was perfect because the crowd was silent, and it's so much harder to get a crowd silent than loud, since we're trained to be loud. Some people (Tori Amos comes to mind, about whom...well, you know) do this by having perfect emotional control over an audience; Courtney did it by being so fucking crazy that all we could do was stand there with our mouths open and listen. And that's cool, too.
She did a lot of crowd-diving, which was nice, and pulled a lot of fans up on stage, but there were about 5 people just there to take care of her, especially these two big beefy bodyguards in suits, real Mafioso-looking types, who would come and fetch her out of the crowd. This was weird. We didn't know quite what to do with her, sometimes; she didn't know what she was doing either, I suspect. But the bodyguards and the freshly-hired Bowery security would come up and kind of shove people around and kind of try and get her back, and like that.
It was particular jarring when it first started happening, because she fell into the crowd and sang the line about getting "our punk rock back" just as this doubtless quite pricy private bodyguard dude was shoving crowd members out of the way and forming a circle of protection around his charge. (By the end of the night, they would just try and stop C-Lo from stagediving altogether.) And I had one of those moments of cynicism we're all prone to as seasoned music fans: that's not very punk rock!
But the thing was, as the night wore on it really was punk rock. It was, hands down, the most unprofessional show I've ever been to, and I'm including shows I've played at here. There was no semblance of a setlist, people were just sort of running around on stage, the singer/guitarist could neither sing nor play guitar, apparently. It was utter chaos, but it had nothing to do with the other band members, consummate professionals all. This was all caused by Courtney herself, fucking everything up partially because she was trying to and partially because she couldn't help it. In many ways, it reminded me of the description of early Ramones shows in Please Kill Me, for better or for worse. There was no barrier between the audience and performer, ultimately, but there was very much a stage and a microphone: we were all focused on Courtney, and we were all supposed to be. It was religious, in a way, or charismatic, as I say: the utter devotion, the encouraging of devotion, the passing of the lifeless body over hands. At the end of the night she crowd-surfed all the way from the front of the room to the back and then back again, and it was funereal, in a way. But she made us promise not to say anything bad about the show, and I'm not: it was amazing. But disturbing. And that's OK.
There should be an axiom in the music business to the effect of "you like Courtney up until the point where you have any personal contact with her whatsoever." I've already detailed some of the reasons for that, and I don't need to get into most of the rest (suffice to say I've known 4 people who have personally worked for Ms. Love, and it's not pretty), but part of it lies in the Tori Amos comparison. As I say, both sets of fans were similar in demographic makeup--subculturey girls and gay men--and both had a similar sense of devotion. Both can put you off, quite a lot, and Tori's fans are one of the big reasons I don't have much interest in Ms. Amos anymore. But Tori doesn't encourage the devotion the way Courtney does. As much as I love her insanely beautiful and smart, smart, smart Internet posts, that kind of direct contact with fans is quite sensibly avoided by most artists, since you don't want people who already have a strong emotional connection with you that's not reciprocated get any further impression that they have a personal relationship with you. This just doesn't seem the case with Courtney. And, again, I like that, but up close and in person it's pretty disturbing. And keep in mind I was there with someone who's been a Courtney fan for almost 10 years, and she felt the same way, if not more so.
As for the opening act, the Sexy Magazines...well, all I can do is repeat the crowd gossip that they got the gig because one of their moms is Courtney's publicist. They were pretty sub-Strokesy. (And I like the Strokes!) I guess my opinion might be colored by the fact that the hipster-fuck lead singer, upon trying to stage-dive, hit me in the head with his head and hit some girl in the face with his boot, making her bleed, but no, I wasn't too fond of them before anyway.
There was little applause at the end. The lights came up, and we left.
Wshew. OK. Did I hit everything? Well, I might add more later. For now, there are cheese sticks to be eaten.
ADDENDUM: VR thread on Courtney's NYC escapades.
 It also struck me as pretty metal, although I'd have a hard time pointing to any specific signs aside from the fucking-awesome-but-not-getting-along-with-Court-so-well drummer's DOUBLE KICK DRUM! Which was rad, even if it didn't go out over the audience on a hydrolic platform. Anyway, with the sort of speed-freaky fans, the overenthusiastic bodyguards in a venue that wouldn't seem to require them, and the general air of a fucked-up lead singer in a downward spiral, it sort of reminded me of what I imagine a pop-metal show must've been like in the early 90s.
 Which makes me wonder if there's more to that whole annoyingly-sedate-NYC-audience thing than just your basic cynicism. New York, like LA and Nashville, is a biz town, somewhere where acts go to get discovered, and so when someone's playing there, you can't help but think if they're really doing it for you. Are they really trying to give it all to the audience, or are they trying to give the appearence of giving it all to the audience so the three or four important people in the room will do something for them? Sure, people can get opening slots in other towns for opportunistic reasons, but it's nothing as elite as this, and even then, you can still enjoy it, because who's going to get discovered in Raleigh, or Boise, or Houston? Maybe somebody, but they're clearly mostly doing it for the love. In the biz towns, though, everything is inevitably tainted by the constant reminder of the art-as-product thing, although a) I wish it weren't, and b) NYC seems nowhere near as bad in this respect as LA.
posted by Mike B. at 2:29 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Thursday, March 18, 2004
You could do a lot worse than going over to Bubblegum Machine and downloading the week 67 songs. Especially the Gore Gore Girls track, which is your basic 2:12-of-perfection pop song. Makes me want to dance!
Also, week 69 features both a great J&MC write-up (pop!) and a Giorgio Moroder song which references "Surfin' Bird" via backup singers going "pa-pa oom-maw-maw." Which is awesome.
posted by Mike B. at 11:41 AM 0 comments Links to this post
This came accross on a mailing list, and it seems cool, so I'm passing it on...
One of my colleagues and I are starting up a DJ 101 for Girls program in Philly. We recently got some coverage in the Philadelphia Daily News and the link is below. If you know of any women on the Philly music scene (DJs, promoters, execs, radio personalities, etc.) and you think they might be interested in coming in and talking to the girls about their experiences, please e-mail me. Also, if you know of any young women, 13-18, who attend junior high /high school in West Philly or who live in West Philly and would *love* the opportunity to learn the basics of DJing, please have them contact me as well. We are already planning our second session. Thanks!
I don't want to post her e-mail here, but drop me a line if you're interested and I'll hook you up.
posted by Mike B. at 10:44 AM 0 comments Links to this post
"No one says whoooooore like I do."
Wow. And the Billboard Awards story? "See, we're Generation X...we're cooooool..." Amazing.
And I'm going to bed.
UPDATE: Whoops. Oh, take it like a man, you pussy!
The nyhappenings reaction:
"I'm bringing my lawyer to every show I go to from here on out. If any of you fucks so much as breathe on me wrong, have fun in jail!"
"and paying your five bucks at the door at any Todd P show henceforth implies informed consent to all flying instrument and / or pyrotechnic related injury. it's all part of the show, folks.
"next step- everybody's signing waivers and / or mandatory body armor."
"SPEAK TO MY LAWYER, TODD."
UPDATE 2: The latest linkage.
UPDATE 3: More nyhappenings reaction:
"Courtney Love is a complete ass!
The cops always charge folks for heavier crimes than the ones they believe will stick. It gives them room to maneuver a plea bargain. I'm certain that, if Love was charged with assault, she will face other charges, such as negligence or reckless endangerment. Of course, in the minute she called her attorney, she did all the maneuvering she will need to get off. At the end of the day, she will probably win the criminal case and loose the civil case. Since her career is (thankfully!) waning (despite her pathetic fake boobs), she'll probably be all-too happy to have this stupid affair in the press. As for the bloke who got hit, I'm sure that he was pissed (and rightfully so) and wanted her to get her come-uppance (long time coming!)."
Fake boobs = better career? Why didn't anyone tell me!
posted by Mike B. at 12:38 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
This morning I was listening to the first Space Ghost album (this is the point where you go, "Oh, it's going to be one of those overly enthusiastic things again, huh?"), and here's the thing: Brak is exactly what I always wished punk rock was but which it never managed to be--mainly, unselfconscious. Brak is unashamedly untrained but he's not trying to use that as a selling point, to throw it in your face or something, he's just going at it with every ounce of enthusiasm he has. He's enthusiastic, which punk so rarely seems to be, ultimately. And he's more than willing to be silly. When I think about removing professionalism, that particular decorum is what I'm thinking about, not the prohibition on being good or chipper. When I want untrained music, I want music by musicians that are untrained but are so happy to be making music that they just had to anyway, not by gruff teenage boys trying to express their anger and frustration, etc. That just seems uninteresting. Punk always seemed to me to have such promise of glorious silliness, of a tearing away of seriousness and a liberation of music's true ecstatic, teenage possibilities. But of course, it rarely acheives that, which is why I never ended up actually listening to much punk.
This is why it saddens me to see pop-punk bands running away from the pop-punk label, you see--it's even more tragic than the already partially-lost indie rockers running away from pop. Sigh. Ah well.
 Think the absolutely mind-bending "hey-whoa-I'm-pretty-much-just-screamin'-here" "scat solo" Brak turns in for "Down to the River," for instance.
 Sometimes, honestly, I get kind of sad about punk's descent into needlessly moribund post-punk of the PiL variety, although of course it's all redeemed by the dance-punk aspects thereof.
 One of the great acheivements on that album, for my money, is that some of the comedy is so pure that it's funny to almost anyone. "Don't Touch Me" is 50% silly voices, 25% silly noises and 25% pure genius, and I think most people would find it funny. There's no references to miss, nothing to "get," it's just silly. I always kind of wanted punk to do the musical equivalent of that.
posted by Mike B. at 6:56 PM 0 comments Links to this post
A sentence I didn't know I've been waiting a long to use until just now: Esselle posts a great Biz Markie song. Go listen.
posted by Mike B. at 6:01 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Thinking of picking up the new Destroyer album today, so I did some searching around, and...well, it was weird.
Doing a google search for Destroyer is pretty fun: you get, among other things, the homepage of The Destroyer!!!! Which is awesome.
But then there's the actual Destroyer bio. Check it out. Someone's humorously bitter:
Your Blues is Destroyer?s vainglorious retreat from the American rock? n roll tradition, in the wake of their bloated and oft-maligned (and oft-praised) magnum opus, This Night, which quietly assaulted the bankrupt college rock arena of 2002.
I particularly like this last point. The MIDI stuff I've heard on the new tracks (I've heard 2, I guess) didn't jar me, but maybe this is because I went through a surprisingly lengthy "general MIDI" phase. Boy, I did a lot with that shit. Well, anyway, the point being that Bejar is right: MIDI was just as much a part of the 80s, if not more, as analogue synths, to say nothing of DX7s. I kind of like the sudden swing from cabaret-pop to electro. Boom! Plus, those are two of my favorite genres.
If anyone's going to see Destroyer and Frog Eyes in NYC on May 10, lemme know. I'll probably be there too.
When the hell are the Danielsen Famile touring again?
posted by Mike B. at 5:52 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Cocorosie have now been mentioned positively in three of my favorite blogs, and while I did post a brief response over on Fluxblog, here's a maybe fuller and fairer explanation of why I just don't want to listen to them anymore.
Partially I just don't like the style enough to see it sustained over an entire album. What it basically consists of is sort of modern home-four-tracker musical backing--cheap synth sounds, keyboard melodies, thin and oft-beatless esoteric percussion, guitar--with two sisters singing over it in Josephine Baker kind of 20's jazz-singer voices, like they're being recorded on gramophone. The "kind of" is important, after all: they have good voices, but there's not much justification for the very specific affectation; it's not like their normal voices become these wonderful tonal boxes when used in that way, and so it mainly seems to serve as a kind of distancing device, whether sincere or not: we're not two normal girls doing this, we're two weirdoes! In France! Singing weirdly! With weird percussion! The whole thing seems very self-conscious, and while that's fine sometimes, here it doesn't really work. (I hear Feist doing this vocal style in a much more restrained, melody-serving way, FWIW.)
But what sends the album from neutral to horrible in my book are the lyrics. Maybe this is simply a matter of digital-age context: I assume the MP3 bloggers downloaded their albums, but I bought mine, and in the actual packaging they've made the extremely unfortunate decision to include the lyrics. It's unfortunate because they sort of work when they're being sung, but when you read what they're actually saying and then go back and listen, it's not good.
So the album starts out with "Terrible Angels," which really is a good song: the lyrics are slightly obscurist, but also specific, throwing out references to Freud, Rilke, Jim Morrison, etc. No complaints there. Indeed, I kind of like it, even if it goes on for too long.
Track 2 is "By Your Side," which is, um, a wee bit obvious in its message. To quote: "All I wanted was to be your housewife...and for a diamond ring I'll do these kinds of things / I'll scrub your floor, never be a bore / I'll tuck you in, I do not snore / I'd wear your black eyes, bake you apple pies." Now, this ain't no PJ Harvey conflicted torch song kinda "I know it's wrong but I'll give up some of my independence for you because I love you so much but that love is kind of destructive but I don't care because I'm in love" thing. Nope, there's really no ambiguity here. It's the dreaded CRUSHINGLY OBVIOUS FEMINIST IRONY. And then, later in the album, it gets even worse. The whole set of lyrics for "Not For Sale" (argh!) are: "You can leave me / where you found me / on the corner / I'm not for sale anymore." Maybe this is just due to, um, personal circumstances regarding a lyricist with similar tendencies, but I'm seriously cringing here.
But then there's "Jesus Loves Me," which, again quite unfortunately, comes at track 3. Here's the chorus:
Jesus loves me
Now look: we all know I have no problem with people using offensive language in service of some purpose or point. But gack, it's just so clumsy here, and so very, very self-conscious. It's not like "Oh my, they're really throwing that language in my face and challenging me with it!" it's more like "Oh, you're saying the n-word, sweetie, good for you." And, even worse, the point just seems to be "Christianity is stupid!" which has been done better before. It's the lyrical equivalent of a laugh track: there not to say something, but to tell us something is being said. (I.e. "this is risque!" or "this is funny!")
Maybe the PJ Harvey comparison is the most useful thing here. Half of the songs on La Maison de Mon Reve really are great. I'm totally with Matthew on "Butterscotch," and "Good Friday" and "West Side" are both very nice. I think, ultimately, this is a demo more than a proper album, and it just contains things they need to get out of their system before making a more emotionally mature work. But they're just so very grating, and the musical backing is so spotty and unrewarding in points, that it's hard to embrace. Polly Jean addresses pretty much all the same things these women do, but she was nailing 'em with a lot of complexity right out of the gate. So maybe it's just that my expectations are so high. I'm certainly engaged with them enough to be eager to check out their next album. But I think this one's going to be mix-tape fodder and not much more.
 And, of course, Portishead.
 Also, weirdly, the riff it's based around sounds a hell of a lot like the main riff for U2's "Perfect Day," but maybe that's the...point?
 Unfortunate because it's so damn hard to get into the rest of the album after that one; if it were buried on Side B, I'll happily admit I wouldn't have such a problem with it.
posted by Mike B. at 11:28 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
I swear I hadn't read K-Punk's great MBV post when I wrote that kind of embarrassing Nirvana thing, but they both managed to mention Loveless and the relation between music and the working world. So I'll use the weird coincidence to go off on the former post and maybe expand a bit on the latter...
First off, I want to say "yar" to Luke's comment about how "if yu let yourself sink into lethargy and depression then thats like defeat and you might as well just sign up for real life." I always want to ask people making the sort of argument that Mark k-punk's making about Shields whether they've had any personal experience with mental illness, or rather with the particular form of mental illness under discussion; it just seems like such a weird thing to romanticize, like seeing the nobility in the flu or something. But it's not strictly germane, and since I imagine the answer is often "well yes I have you pompous ass" I'll just leave it there as a simple observation of the differing perspectives on mental illness, i.e. "organic" v. "biological."
What is germane is the argument being made about the difference between pop and, um, not-pop. (Ah, we're back to that problem again. Anyway.) He writes:
Now Pop is, above all, well-adjusted; it doesn't seek to transfigure the world, offers us no transports of ecstasy or escape. It's not for nothing that hip hop, with its banal ambitions and dreary aspirations, its ostensible ultrarealism, is king in Now Pop. Shields' version of Pop - aptly termed Dreampop, once, of course - dissents from this reality, not in the name of unreality or fantasy, but in the name of libido. Desire can never be persuaded to take the drab world of Work and Wealth at face value. For libido, that world is an unconvincing theatre populated by poorly animated puppets and grim effigies: an existential charade that everyone necessarily occupies only - as Jamelia's comments make clear - as impostors, as play actors. Dreampop has always robbed the World of Necessity of its claim to ontological precedence over the realm of Desire. Jamelia's observations show that Now Pop has reversed this prioritization; Pop is now a colony of the world of Work.
First off, I'm unclear how you can say necessity and desire are different; necessity is driven wholly by desire, ultimately, since you go to work not because something's forcing you but because you need the money to fulfill your desires. Shields is just lucky to have the talent and timing to be able to get most of what he wants without going to work. But maybe I'm just missing the point.
At any rate, I think the entry is clearly privileging Shield's perspective over Now Pop's, and that's what I'd like to discuss. Just as a threshold matter, it seems slightly kooky to say that Shields' work was somehow divorced from commerce--talk of money is all over that interview, and it seems like all he did for about five years was fight with record labels about money. Shields is more aware than anyone that it takes money to make music, usually other people's money, and before he got to the recluse stage I'm sure he had to deal with all the stuff starting bands deal with about finding money to tour, getting your cut from promoters, selling merch, finding money for food and gas, etc., etc. A lot of what being in a band is about before you attain self-sufficiency is money, and so if a musician has managed to convey that he is somehow divorced from that base world, it is simply an illusion. We want to privilege illusion here, but the fact is that pop's about money no more than dream-pop's about money, because even when it is about cash, cash itself is always about something else--desire, love, respect. Is hip-hop accountancy or braggadocio?
I just don't see there being much of a difference between Shield's attitude and Jamelia's. Jamelia is, like it or not, a musician; sure, for her backers and investors (second-hand or otherwise) selling more records is just about pure hard cash, but for musicians, the reason money matters, and the reason sales matter and tour attendance matters, is that this will allow you to continue making music. Jamelia wants to be a marketable product because then people will buy her albums and tickets, and by the rules of pop, that will then allow her to make another album. Shields is just lucky enough to be an almost universally-beloved figure in the indie world who people will invest in even without any reasonable hope of return, and arguably this is the result of the way he himself has presented his image.
Anyway, logic aside, let's talk aesthetics, bitches. I have to admit I'm sympathetic to how Mark's describing Jamelia's position and kind of annoyed by the stance being attributed to Shields, which is weird since, you know, I really like Loveless. Maybe in a way it's kind of like the debate between prose and poetry (although maybe this is just because I recently read the "Arcadia" story-arc in The Invisibles)--poets are dreamers, there to see the world as it could be, whereas other people simply see it as it is and report back. But I just don't think that's true--I think, rather, that it's a matter of specificity. Poets, like dream-pop with its intentionally indecipherable lyrics and muddled melodies, present not so much a plan of action as a general palette of emotions, a sort of set of feelings that can motivate you or, alternately, not. It is intentionally unspecific, or deliberately contradictory, to allow the individual to craft their own images. But when faced with something more specific, it's presumed to be based in realism. Not so. Often (as I've said) the surest way to change something is to pretend like it's already changed. If the visions of poets and indie rockers represent a valid reality, then surely our perceptions of reality are just as valid an alternative.
And it's for this reason that the seemingly coldly specific Now Pop can be even more rapturous and ecstatic as something that seems beamed to us from some distant perspective. Sure, those vague emotions can work real well, because there's nothing to contest (really, what is there in MBV to get mad at? It's highly innocuous in its own way), but don't discount the force of familiarity and connection. Fountains of Wayne works for me, for instance, not just because of the melodies and rhythms, but in the way it very specifically evokes the NYC metro area in the summer. Why? Because I've spent a lot of time in Long Island. This is a riskier artistic strategy in a way, since you might not connect with the wide audience you'd want, but I think one of the amazing things about pop-I is in the way it manages to do this despite itself. I know banality is supposed to be bad, but I spend most of my time doing banal things, and a lot of them excite the hell out of me. (Come on, like you haven't really enjoyed using office supplies in the past?) This is rapture that is accessible, that is not a elite spiritual experience, but just something that happens to me all the time. And that's great--my life gets better and better the more of those I have. I don't want that to happen at a remove, I want that to happen right now, while I'm sitting in the office under the fluorescent lights and smelling the pickle in the trash can and feeling the out-of-position insert in my shoe. And that's one of the things that pop-I does for me.
But what does it do? That was one of the things I was trying to get at in my earlier post. Does music function like meth, as a sort of apologist/enabler/defense mechanism with the world of work? The problem with demonizing "work" is that it's not just the bad stuff--it's the good stuff, too. It's the banal stuff we have to do to get the big, transformative things done. The legwork, the phone calls, the slow transcriptions, the careful recordings. Meth, after all, has produced some pretty good music. This is what people want to ignore about creative geniuses, it seems: there's a lot of little boring things they have to do to get their vision or whaddayacallit out there. Loveless makes me not want to do office work, and maybe that's good, but it doesn't particularly make me want to work out drum parts, either. I enjoy listening to it, but it's just brain relaxation, a cleansing blast, not something that's really transformative. (Or, at any rate, no more transformative than Law and Order.) But this is different for everyone: I'm willing to accept that for some people, MBV makes them want to go out and change the world. But then, I think, that would also make them able to do mass mailings and flowcharts. Maybe I'm wrong.
But there is that bad side: it makes you accept work. Isn't that bad? Eh, I dunno. I know, I know, we're all supposed to imagine a world without work, and sure, I'd like to work less and get paid the big buxx like everyone else, but I also see a certain value in work. It sort of forces you to deal with your shit, and I know a lot of people who could stand having their shit dealt with. Any setup I can envision that has eliminated work sounds either really boring or in immanent danger of robot rebellion. Again, I think a certain amount of work is good for you: it gives you the discipline to do all that busywork that being creative involves. Quite frankly, I don't quite trust musicians without day jobs (which day job can include "professional musician," i.e. songwriter-for-hire, engineer, studio musician), but that's just between you and me.
See, I like songs about work. I like them a lot. I especially like ones that try and take a more nuanced view of work, to not just use it to rail against something that they understandably dislike (but then, we used to feel the same way about homework) and against the perceived masses of people who "just accept it." Well, they don't; it's a bargain, like any other, and there are pressures and desires that make that bargain attractive. It's not a failure--just a choice. It's not pure, but pure things are boring anyway. Work limits you, but limits are good. Are we tired of this sentence construction yet?
So I dunno. I'm trying to make this argument in good faith and be honestly worried about Nirvana furthering my office work, but truth be told, I'm just not one of those people who gets concerned about art because it "placates the masses" or "fuels capitalism." If the masses are anything like me, the point where they need placating isn't a point that's going to produce any revolutionizin', and capitalism's sorta kinda OK. *duck* When managed correctly and in the context of a democracy and yes and so forth. So but OK of course this guy likes Now Pop, right? Well, I guess so. Aesthetics, bitches.
The contestation Dreampop effects has its costs, naturally. To refuse to take the world of Health and Efficiency seriously is to flirt with illness, anhedonia, agoraphobia, (living) death. The symptoms of Shields' 'condition' - getting up in the afternoon, if at all, vegetating in front of the box, doing as little as possible - are all too familiar. "I just didn't do what I didn't want to do. And I got away with it. When you keep on getting away with it year after year, you think you can just live like that. And you can. I wouldn't work. I wouldn't get up till late afternoon. I watched a lot of shit films."
I've always been mystified by the high critical valuation of mysteriousness, and I've been extremely mystified by the continued deification of people with talent and mental illness in this age of pretty down-to-earth explanations of why that shit happens. (And in most cases, you don't even need to crack the DSM-IV; a simple "they did too many goddamn drugs" will suffice.) They've got a chemical imbalance. They didn't get it because they refused to study accounting; they got it through bad wiring. Maybe they don't even want to have a chemical imbalance. Why does that make them special?
But maybe I'm being ungenerous. In thinking about this, I tried to consider it from the fan's perspective: here's this artist you feel like you have a personal relationship with who's gone off the deep end. The only problem is, you don't have a personal relationship with them, and so unlike their actual loved ones, you can't help them. You see what's going on but you can't do anything about it. And so maybe turning the negative into a positive is the best thing you can do about it. You turn it into a negative attribute to deal with your own feelings of impotence about actually helping this person that you really, honestly (and not unjustly, I'm not criticizing this behavior) love.
Still, statements like Mark's kind of irk me, because as I say above, I don't think it's some mysterious connection between refusing to conform to reality and going mad; rather, it's the other way around, as Luka makes clear in the comments. You're crazy and so you're unable to do the basic, banal things that ordinary humans need to do to get through life, and would have to do no matter the setup. It's absolutely tragic; my friends with mental illnesses that prevent them from holding down jobs are almost always the worst off. I honestly think it's kind of horrible to pretend like mental illness is evidence of a heroic choice; for one thing, I think that pervasive attitude is what prevents artists whose mental illness is seen as an asset, and consequently by aspiring artists who just assume their mental illness is an asset, from seeking treatment. This isn't even addressing the issue that mental illness doesn't just affect the person suffering from it, but those around them, and so in many ways a refusal to conform to reality is an extremely selfish act. And I guess artists have to be selfish, but I'm still not sure it's something we want to glorify.
At any rate, I'm almost certainly reading too much into Mark's post, so consider most of this an extension of mine, if you would be so kind.
 And even then not so much: like owning a sports team, investing in the music industry is usually more an act of ego than of sound financial instincts, about being "in the music industry" rather than actually making money, since you usually don't.
 Neither pop-I nor dream-pop is inherently transformative; that depends on the context. Certainly Shields' current condition doesn't speak well to the transformative, escapist functions of the genre he created.
 Which is not to say that people who don't work have no value, etc., etc., standard don't-want-to-sound-like-a-paleoconservative-here disclaimer.
 If I was being ungenerous I would posit that most mental illnesses look a lot more fun from a distance than they do up close, but I think in a way that's partially willed and understandable--again, a reaction to impotence.
 And, again, there's the defense mechanism argument--glorifying your own condition is a good way to feel OK about it.
posted by Mike B. at 6:25 PM 0 comments Links to this post
No more posts today--work got busy. Got some good ones lined up for, er, as soon as I can get to 'em, though.
On the bright side, I did find a Scorpions best-of album, with, um, two new songs, which is...cool? Anyway, I'm excited.
Also, the cover of Lovedrive is just astoundingly weird. Dude, what the hell is going on there? Is the dude like a Spiderman thing shooting chewing gum at her exposed boob? Goddamn Germans.
posted by Mike B. at 6:18 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I'm kind of pissed off about this, although I guess I shouldn't be.
posted by Mike B. at 1:12 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Monday, March 15, 2004
Wait, is Beenie Man really saying "If you need some cheese sticks, call me" in that song? Probably not, I guess.
posted by Mike B. at 7:35 PM 0 comments Links to this post
The new Klosterman Esquire piece, coming to us straight from your usual anonymous source.
ADDENDUM: Having had some time to digest, I really like this one. The Bush breakdown is especially good.
I also feel I should point out that bands are especially best when there are two nemeses in it.
Maybe Meg is Jack's nemesis?
posted by Mike B. at 7:33 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Back in my teenage years, I used to make catalogues--mini-ones, mind you, and only in my head--of songs that made me want to jump around the room, and then when I felt like jumping around the room and possibly busting my closet door (sorry, Ma) I would put these on. For a long time, oddly, it was Motley Crue's "Kickstart My Heart." I discovered the Crue, and all other metal bands, a good number of years after the fact, and from the cassettes at the public library more often than not, but there was a period there where Dr. Feelgood ruled my life. I specifically remember making a cassette with "Kickstart" repeated like ten times, which I would then play through my indescribably crappy $5 garage-sale boombox while I was doing homework on Mesopotamia to get myself "psyched up."
Then, of course, I moved on. I remember "March of the Pigs" occupying a space on the list for a long time, and I'm pretty sure some tracks off the Use Your Illusions did, too--"You Could Be Mine," "Civil War," possibly the rockout section of "November Rain." And possibly some Queen. (And very slightly possibly TMBG and Violent Femmes.) Other than that, I'm drawing a weird blank.
Except for Nirvana.
Which I have on now, actually. The greatest hits album, as it happens, which I hadn't given much respect to previous to this, but right now it's fucking blowing me away. I've had an insanely busy day here, and I was listening to Loveless but it was just making me kind of listless and spacy. I put on Nirvana, though, and I just plowed the fuck through like 20 invoices. I'm seriously getting that thrash-around-the-room feeling, again, but it's not so very good this time since I'm pissed off at my job and my co-workers and if I do start thrashing around and tearing shit up, that's going to solve my current problems but create a whole set of new ones. I don't want to feel destructive, but I do.
It's weird that we now have recreational drugs that also effectively function as work aids. Crank, for instance, is a specifically working-class drug because it's also used to help get you through your incredibly boring, repetitive, 8 or 9 or 10 hour shifts doing manual labor. Plus, it's cheap. But that's an also: it's primarily a recreational drug. Why would you want to take something that you'd take at work? How can that be fun? I know it is, but it seems to make no sense. Same with Ritalin, but of course that's pretty much crank anyway.
And so here I am with my Nirvana, helping me get my goddamn work done at this goddamn record label that wouldn't sign a Nirvana right now to save their goddamn worthless lives, surrounded by rich assholes talking finance and me doing the grunt work for it, not caring, trying not to think about it too much, listening to the music. Working the job so I can afford to do my own music on the side. Listening to Nirvana when I want to motivate myself to work or to make music, or just to drown out the annoying fuckers who surround me. Why is this music functional? Does the function ruin the pleasure? Is there pleasure in the function?
But godfuckingdamnit, this is such. a. good. album. Such good music. There's still that kick when "Sliver" or "Smells Like Teen Spirit" comes on, to say nothing of "You Know You're Right," which remains goddamn creepy. It's incredible. It's incredible music. People seem to sort of have this blind spot to Nirvana right now, and sure, I know there's cool 30-year-olds in New York right now who weren't listening to Michael Jackson and hair metal in 1992, so Nevermind wasn't as big a deal for them, but come on guys, even if you were down with the REM and the British post-punk and the rave, I honestly don't see how Nirvana wasn't a kick in the teeth. Maybe this is just my warped perspective, but it seems weird that this is constantly pitched as revelatory because it was a paradigm shift. That wasn't the point. The point was that Nirvana was a fucking great band, and everyone somehow agreed. It was the fact that they didn't seem to be looking for this, the idea that the listeners were pulling them into the spotlight rather than the musicians themselves shoving into view, that gave them that extra kick to listeners of a certain stripe, a kick different than what you'd get from the similarly great-and-widely-loved Outkast or Prince, I think, but the main kick is the music, the amazing music.
Well, anyway. Back to work. Rehearsal tonight. Thrashing around the room later, or not at all. I'm just hanging on to see where it all ends up...
 Except, possibly, Warrant's "Cherry Pie," although I may be misremembering. I got some Tesla albums as new releases, but didn't come to it until "Five Man Acoustical Jam," of course. I also did some Extreme on-time, but only secondhand.
 Yeah, and I even liked the crappy post-glory days stuff, to demonstrate my lameness. I don't think Klosterman even talks about this in Fargo Rock City.
 But it's still a great fucking album.
 Founded, interestingly enough, partially on money made off of Nirvana, but that's a whole other story.
posted by Mike B. at 6:41 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Hilarious e-mail of the day:
Hey, just FYI.. [singer] from [band] sent us an 3-mail last week telling us to take the word pop punk out of any bios, d3scriptions, etc. of [band]. They are v. uncomfortable about that t3rm.
Ah, pop punk, we all feel so bad for what mall punk did to you, but we just can't be seen in public with you right now...
It's not a bad description of the band in question, incidentally.
More later--just got dumped with a bunch of things to do.
posted by Mike B. at 1:09 PM 0 comments Links to this post